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Conference USA won't hold championship events in Mississippi until Confederate emblem is removed from state flag

Conference USA announced Monday that it will not hold conference championship events in the state of Mississippi “until the confederate emblem is removed from the state flag.” 

The decision, which was made by the conference’s Board of Directors, comes on the heels of a statement from C-USA commissioner Judy MacLeod last week. MacLeod said June 18 that the conference’s board would conduct a process to “review its championship hosting policies in order to ensure we provide environments that align with our continued mission to support and protect our student-athletes.”

“Along with many of you, we have been listening, sharing and learning over the past few weeks,” MacLeod said. “We have heard the concerns regarding the homage paid to symbols and individuals that represent horrific injustices of the past. Providing non-discriminatory, welcoming and respectful championship experiences for all of our student-athletes is paramount.”

The University of Southern Mississippi is the only Conference USA member from the state of Mississippi. Mississippi often hosts the conference’s postseason baseball tournament. The conference baseball tournament has been played in Mississippi in eight of the last nine years, including three straight years in Biloxi. The 2020 event was also scheduled for Biloxi and the 2022 tournament was recently assigned to USM’s campus in Hattiesburg. 

The ruling from C-USA could preclude Southern Miss from hosting the conference championship game in football should it win its division. The divisional winner with the better record hosts the conference title game. Southern Miss plays in the C-USA West. 

Conference USA announced that it will not hold championship events in Mississippi until the state changes its flag. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

SEC threatens to pull championship events, too

The announcement from Conference USA comes after a stance taken by the Southeastern Conference last week. In a statement, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey called for Mississippi’s flag to be changed and said the conference would consider not holding its championship events in Mississippi “until the flag is changed.”

“It is past time for change to be made to the flag of the State of Mississippi. Our students deserve an opportunity to learn and compete in environments that are inclusive and welcoming to all,” Sankey said in a statement last Thursday. “In the event there is no change, there will be consideration of precluding Southeastern Conference championship events from being conducted in the State of Mississippi until the state flag is changed.”

Two of the SEC’s 14 members are located in Mississippi, Ole Miss and Mississippi State. Athletic directors from both schools came out in support of Sankey’s statement. MSU and Ole Miss have not displayed the flag on campus for several years. 

NCAA expands Confederate flag policy

On Friday, the NCAA expanded its Confederate flag policy to “prevent any NCAA championship events from being played in states where the symbol has a prominent presence” and specifically mentioned Mississippi as “the only state currently affected” by the policy. 

The change adds to the policy that previously “barred the awarding of sites determined in advance of a championship” in states that displayed the Confederate flag:

The policy previously barred the awarding of sites determined in advance of a championship in states that displayed the Confederate flag. However, if a college or university team earned the right to host a championship game based on its tournament seeding or ranking -- considered a nonpredetermined award -- the team could host on its college campus or in its home territory.  

“There is no place in college athletics or the world for symbols or acts of discrimination and oppression,” said Michael V. Drake, chair of the NCAA’s board of governors. “We must continually evaluate ways to protect and enhance the championship experience for college athletes. Expanding the Confederate flag policy to all championships is an important step by the NCAA to further provide a quality experience for all participants and fans.”

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